Bad Names

One of my favorite book excerpts comes from Freakonomics by Steven Levitt, which is a continuation of his paper “The Causes and Consequences of Distinctly Black Names.” He talks about how there are no people in power who have really off-the-wall names that we usually associate with African American youth. He talks about unfortunate children with names like “Female” because the mother thought the doctors had named her when they wrote down the gender. He alludes to other famous stories, such as the brothers, Orangejello and LeMonjello, whose parents named them after two things they had sitting around the house.

Levitt discovers through his complex economic regression that it isn’t the name that makes life hard, but that a bad name is a symptom of a much bigger problem, that being bad parenting. Essentially, if your parents can’t be bothered to come up with a good name for you, most likely, they are going to be negligent parents and you will not get all of the opportunities that will help you succeed.

As a father-to-be, or if you are having more children, one of your first responsibilities to your offspring is make sure that their names are well considered.

This is something that I’ve thought about for years, ever since I knew I wanted to have children. Naming a child should be something on which you spend a considerable amount of time and energy. Some names come easy, like naming them after a dearly departed loved one. Other names can be quite difficult. With this in mind, a few years ago, I made a small list of rules for naming children. They are as follows:

1) No numbers or punctuation (apostraphes, hyphens, etc.)

These names may be original, but there is a reason for that. They are terrible names. They are not creative or clever. They suck. There is a girl in my current district whose name is Le-a, pronounced “La DASH a.” Seriously…

Although, if you wanted to name your son M@, that would be pretty badass…


2) Don’t name the child something that reasonable people will find offensive.

Batman bin Suparman

This guy, however, wins.

This goes beyond basic things like “Adolf Hitler Jones” or “Pol Pot Webber.” Don’t just think about pronunciation, but also the implied spelling of your kids name. In Erie, there really is a girl named Shithead, pronounced “Shi-thead.” Seriously…


3) If you have to pause before saying the name, it’s not a good name.

Think about what it will be like for other people to see your child’s name written down somewhere. Remember in school when the teacher was taking roll and got to a name that was tricky? Every kid knew who they were going to call next and it was embarrassing. Seriously…


4) You MUST consider your last name when picking a first.

A coworker of mine went to school with a girl whose last name was Cianci (“SEE-an-see”). Her parents thought it would be a good idea to name her Nancy Ann. Her name was Nancy Ann Cianci. Say it out loud. Even the most benign name can be bad. Even though he grew into a formidable actor, Billy D. Williams had to spend his childhood as William Williams.

The corollary to this rule is to consider possible nicknames in light of said last name. If your last name is Weiner, don’t name your kid Harold.

Some countries, like New Zealand, actually have laws on the books about what you can name your child.

– – –

Naming a child is vital. When in doubt, you can always fall back on Star Wars or Star Trek names, which are of course, the coolest names ever!